"I've already lost an international student! I've only been on the job for eleven days!" Panicked and pacing the baggage claim area at the world's busiest airport, Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson, these thoughts drummed through my mind to the rhythm of my racing heart. As Associate Director for International Programs, I have the privilege of welcoming our exchange students. In the office earlier that week, I painstakingly drafted an arrival schedule, cross-referenced by airline and accounting for time spent in line at customs. That table clearly noted Simon ought to be standing in front of me at north baggage claim #8.
I turned slowly in place, willing Simon to appear, but no luck. Sighing, I pushed from my mind catastrophic thoughts of where Simon might actually be, and returned to the group of students already assembled. Weary and excited Italian, Romanian, Chinese, and Singaporean faces stared back at me. "Let's go the van so I can take you to Emory." I led the way, hoping I looked more confident than I felt.
Fitting seven international students—and their luggage—into the rented van required an advanced degree in engineering. Since none of us boasted one, we did our best. With students sitting over, under, and beside their bags, I steered the van north through the city. I pointed out Atlanta landmarks - Turner Field, home of the Braves; the state capitol building; Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site -and heard ahs and saw heads nodding in recognition.
When the first buildings on Emory’s campus came into view, I realized how much I was going to love my new job. Most of the students were awestruck, even those with previous American visits under their belts. The main sentiment whispered in accented English and undulating Italian, concerned Emory's impressive size. All I had to do to be successful with these students was connect them with just a handful of the relationships, resources, and realities that make their home among the grounds of our campus.
Every day, I do just that, in small ways and large. I introduce exchange students to domestic ones interested in leaving Goizueta to study abroad at one of our 31 partner universities in 18 countries. I answer questions about academic credit, insurance cards and employment eligibility. I find handsome rewards in this work like the hesitant smile when David realized a study abroad experience would fit into his academic plan. Jamie surprised me with a gift of a mouse to decorate my office for the Chinese New Year. Just last week, we experienced the triumphant discovery of Eric's ordered textbook on a back shelf of the student post office. Thankfully, I also found Simon. My trusty schedule had failed me. He was not due until the next day, and arrived right on time.
Dr. Valerie Molyneaux is a new addition to the BBA Program Office, joining the Goizueta Business School after five previous years of service at Emory in the Division of Campus Life. If your student wants to discuss exciting study abroad opportunities, she can be found in Goizueta 316.